Men’s basketball lets home opener slip away

By Brian Earle

Free throws were men’s basketball’s Achilles heel in its 68-66 loss to Nebraska Omaha Friday night at the Convocation Center.

The Huskies (0-1) missed 13 free throws, going 15-28 from the free throw line while the Mavericks (1-0) went 27-32 from the charity stripe.

“I thought we played good enough to win the game, but I guess when you miss 13 … free throws and you can’t extend on your lead it comes back to bite you,” said coach Mark Montgomery.

With the score 67-65, the Huskies had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line when sophomore guard Travon Baker was fouled. He only made one free throw as he missed his first attempt.

Caleb Steffensmeier, Nebraska Omaha senior guard, hit one free throw of his own to give the Mavericks a 68-66 lead with six seconds left.

Sophomore guard Daveon Balls took the inbound pass and dribbled all the way to the rim and got a shot up but came up short as the ball went off the rim.

“We have to find a way to, no matter what, finish games,” Montgomery said. “We had the lead late, but they made a few more plays down the stretch than we did.”

The Huskies started the game in control, as they held a 20-10 lead at the 11:36 mark in the first half. They started the game 3-of-4 from behind the three-point arc as sophomore guards Baker, J.J. Cravatta and wing Darrell Bowie each knocked down a three-pointer in the first half.

The Huskies took an 11-point lead into halftime, leading 39-28. NIU shot 48 percent from the field in the half.

In the second half, the Huskies could not increase their lead to put the Mavericks away as they hung around all game and slowly cut down the deficit.

The Mavericks had trailed since the 17:36 mark in the first half and finally came back to tie the game at 60-60 at the 3:04 mark on a three-point field goal by senior guard CJ Carter. Carter took over down the stretch for the Mavericks, scoring eight of his game-high 18 points in the final three minutes of the contest.

“CJ Carter was clutch down the stretch for us tonight,” said Nebraska Omaha coach Derrin Hansen. “He got the ball to the basket and got it done at the free throw line.”

Bowie led the Huskies with 16 points while Balls added 13 points. Redshirt junior Jordan Threloff made a solid debut in DeKalb as he scored nine points.